5 Reasons Why UEFA's Away-Goals Rule Should Be Scrapped
So the away-goals rule—implemented by UEFA in 1965—could well be done away with.
As the regulation’s many critics have pointed out in recent years, it is both illogical and counterproductive to persist with away goals as a tie-breaker, and while the rule may have served a purpose at one time, its usefulness has long since expired.
On Thursday, at a gathering of internationally renowned coaches in Nyon, Switzerland, former Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson confirmed that away goals had been discussed at length.
“There was a bit of a debate about whether it has any significance today,” he remarked, as per The Guardian. “Some think it is not as important as it used to be.”
Count Arsene Wenger among that set.
“The weight of the away goal is too heavy, too big and is not justifiable anymore,” the Arsenal boss said last December, according to The Telegraph. “I think it is a problem in the modern game.”
He’s right, and over the next few slides we’ll examine why.
Here are five reasons why UEFA’s away-goals rule should be scrapped—ASAP.
5. It’s Antiquated
The away goals rule was introduced in 1965, following a European Cup quarter-final between Liverpool and Cologne that was settled by flipping a coin after a pair of scoreless draws.
The thinking was that the flipped-coin method of breaking ties and the tentative nature of European away matches could be dealt with by a single measure—two birds with one stone, if you will.
Remember, a cross-continent trip in the 1960s wasn’t quite as comfortable as it is now, nor were the matchday experiences for either the visiting team or its set of supporters.
But those days are long gone, and, says Sir Alex Ferguson, the majority of his peers wish the away-goals rule was, as well.
“If we go back, say, 30 years,” he remarked, as per Reuters, “counter-attacking consisted of one, or maybe two, players. Today, counter-attacks have players flooding forward in fives or sixes and really positive, quick passing.”
He added: “What is helping is that the state of pitches, pitches are fantastic nowadays, so coming out of defense with passes is much easier than it was 30 years ago, and you get a better attitude to counter-attack today than you did 30 years ago.”
4. It’s Counterproductive
Another downside of the away-goals rule is that, by its very nature, it coaxes the home team to think about a clean sheet first and goalscoring second.
“Sometimes I think there is a counter-effect as teams play at home not to concede goals,” stated Arsene Wenger, according to The Telegraph. “At home the first thing managers say is, 'let’s not concede a goal.’”
Sir Alex Ferguson concurs.
“From a personal point of view, when I was playing at home, I used to say to myself, ‘don’t lose a goal,’” he said on Thursday, as per The Guardian.
If the away-goals rule was intended to draw the visiting team out of its half of the pitch, it has since enticed the home side to sit back and defend.
3. It Ruins a Two-Legged Score Draw
Last March, Paris Saint-Germain beat Chelsea 3-1 in the first leg of a Champions League quarter-final at Parc des Princes. Chelsea, however, managed fight their way back into the tie thanks to goals from Andre Schurrle and Demba Ba at Stamford Bridge.
After 180 minutes of football, the aggregate scoreline was a quite representative 3-3. But Chelsea, by virtue of Eden Hazard’s consolation marker in Paris, advanced to the next round on away goals.
It’s a scenario that plays out every season, and it’s wildly unfair—never mind insultingly illogical.
To paraphrase Gertrude Stein, “a draw is a draw is a draw is a draw.”
One goal is just as valuable as another, regardless of when it is scored. And if a split decision is the result after two legs, there other ways to determine a winner.
2. It Makes a Mockery of Extra Time
The away-goals rule is especially ridiculous in extra time, as whenever a tie exceeds 180 minutes the visiting team always has the advantage.
Take the Napoli-Chelsea quarter-final from 2012 as an example.
Following a 3-1 defeat in Italy, Chelsea stormed back to level terms with a 4-1 win at Stamford Bridge. Eventually, Branislav Ivanovic won the contest for the Blues in the 105th minute.
But what if Napoli had potted a goal in, say, the 110th minute?
They would have created a 5-5 aggregate draw but gone ahead on away goals. Their goal would have been worth more than Ivanovic's.
Should UEFA persist in enforcing the away-goals rule, the least they can do is abolish it for extra time—or go straight to penalties.
In what world does it make sense that one team plays 120 minutes with the away-goals advantage while the other gets only 90 minutes with it?
1. It Predetermines Strategies and Tactics
You’d like to think that when a manager hatches his strategies and designs his tactics, he does so to get the best out of the players at his disposal while neutralising the abilities of his opponents.
Framed another way, a football match should be played between the participating teams and enhanced by the fans in attendance—both the home support and traveling contingents. Outside influence is not only unnecessary, but also an affront to the game itself.
As Sir Alex Ferguson and Arsene Wenger point out in the previous slides, home-team managers invariably set up to keep a clean sheet—especially in the first leg.
Their decisions should not be so manipulated, and especially not by the governing body whose tournament they’re contesting in the first place.
The away-goals rule is a failed performance-enhancer that now does little more than tilt the field when it shouldn’t while diminishing a product it was designed to improve.
And it should be done away with as soon as it behooves the powers that be to do so.